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Antidepressant Drug Claims (Suicide and Birth Defects)

Antidepressant Drugs can be used to treat people with depression. However, in pregnant women SSRIs have been linked with birth defects and in some people, incorrect treatment with certain types of antidepressant drugs can cause suicidal thinking or actions or make a depressed person worse. Deciding on whether a person should be placed on certain types of antidepressants should be a team decision including the doctor, the patient, and a patient's parents or guardians if the depressed person is a minor.  The team should discuss all treatment choices, including the potential dangers of using antidepressants.

If someone you love has been treated with antidepressants and you believe that treatment has resulted in suicide or a birth defect, a thorough investigation should be done.  The investigation can determine if the suicide or birth defect was preventable and was caused by psychiatric malpractice or other negligence.  If it was, steps should be taken to ensure that this does not happen to anyone else.  If you have any questions about this web page or investigating an antidepressant claim, feel free to contact Texas Bad Drug Lawyer Jason Coomer.

Antidepressant Drug SSRI Birth Defect Claims

Some medications that have been linked to birth defects include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Antidepressants (SSRIs).  Women that have taken SSRIs after the 20th week of pregnancy have a 6-fold increased risk of their children developing persistent pulmonary hypertension, a life-threatening lung disorderInfants with persistent pulmonary hypertension have abnormal blood flow through the heart and lungs and do not get enough oxygen to their bodies and may become very sick or die. 

The SSRIs antidepressants that have been linked to persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) include Paxil by GlaxoSmithKline, Zoloft marketed by Pfizer; Prozac sold by Eli Lilly; Celexa and Lexapro by Forest Laboratories, Effexor marketed by Wyeth, Luvox by Solvay, and the generic makers of these drugs include Barr Pharmaceuticals, Ranbaxy Labs and Genpharm.

Infants born with PPHN often require mechanical assistance to breath and even worse about 10% to 20% of the infants do not survive even when they receive treatment. The PPHN babies that do survive often experience developmental delays, brain abnormalities and hearing loss, experts say.

Antidepressant Suicide Drug Claims

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked manufacturers of all antidepressant drugs to include in their labeling a boxed warning and expanded warning statements that alert health care providers to an increased risk of suicidality (suicidal thinking and behavior) in children and adolescents being treated with these agents, and additional information about the results of pediatric studies.  The study reviewed five selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (Celexa, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil and Zoloft) and four "atypical" antidepressants (Wellbutrin, Remeron, Serzone and Effexor XR).

Of all antidepressants, only fluoxetine (brand name: Prozac) has been FDA approved to treat pediatric depression. For obsessive compulsive disorder, FDA considers only fluoxetine (brand name: Prozac), sertraline (brand name: Zoloft), fluvoxamine (no marketed brand name product), and clomipramine (brand name: Anafranil) to be of proven benefit in children and teens. The past experiences of the patient with other treatments or antidepressants may lead the doctor to suggest other antidepressants than the ones listed above.  However, make sure everyone understands the potential risks of using antidepressants to treat pediatric depression.  Mirtazapine (marketed as Remeron and Remeron Soltab) have been linked with suicidal thoughts in adults and teenagers.

Nefazadone hydrochloride (marketed as Serzone and Nefazodone HCL) is another SSRI that is prescribed for patients experiencing depression or mental illness. The FDA also administered a black-box warning for Serzone, claiming it increased the thoughts and attempts of suicide in children and adults taking the drug.

Bupropion hydrochloride (marketed as Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR/XL and Zyban) has also drawn the FDAs attention lately. This antidepressant is believed to be related to increased thoughts and attempts of suicide among children and adults taking the drug.

Additionally, regulatory authorities in the United Kingdom (U.K.) have announced new labeling for the antidepressant drug Effexor (venlafaxine) and antidepressant drugs known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).  For Effexor and the SSRIs, the British authorities strengthened warnings about

  • suicidal thoughts and behaviors

  • certain withdrawal effects

For Effexor, they announced that patients with heart disease or high blood pressure should not use the drug. The authorities will only allow certain physician specialists to prescribe the drug.

Paxil (paroxetine) is one of a class of medicines called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs increase the activity of an important brain chemical called serotonin, a chemical know to be deficient in patients with MDD.

The FDA has not approved Paxil for the treatment of MDD or any other indication in pediatric patients. However, the FDA does not regulate the practice of medicine and physicians may use a drug in ways other than indicated on the labeling when, in their professional judgment, if it is warranted in a particular case. This is based on three well-controlled clinical trials carried out in children (under 18 years of age) with MDD that compared the effect of Paxil and placebo (sugar pills) and found that Paxil did not work any better than placebo in the treatment of MDD.  In fact, based on the results of the analyses of safety data from pediatric studies, it was found that certain suicide-related behaviors, including suicidal thoughts and attempts, were more common in children receiving Paxil. The risk of these events in the study was about 3 times greater with Paxil compared to placebo. There were no deaths in these trials.

If any of the following behaviors appear for the first time or seem worse after starting a new antidepressant medication, a medical professional should be contacted right away.

  • New or more thoughts of suicide

  • Trying to commit suicide

  • New or worse depression

  • New or worse anxiety

  • Feeling very agitated or restless

  • Panic attacks

  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)

  • New or worse irritability

  • Acting aggressive, being angry, or violent

  • Acting on dangerous impulses

  • Being extremely hyperactive in actions and talking (hypomania or mania)

  • Other unusual changes in behavior

  • If someone you love is suffering from depression, make sure you have all the facts and have carefully weighed your options prior to selecting an antidepressant.  If a suicide or birth defect has occurred and you believe that it was caused by an antidepressant, make sure that the birth injury or suicide is properly investigated.  If you have any questions about this web page or investigating an antidepressant claim, feel free to contact Texas Bad Drug Lawyer Jason Coomer.


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